Thousands of spectators gathered today to watch the annual pony swim, now in its 90th year, from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island on Virginia’s eastern shore.
The ponies are descendants of ancestors that came to Assateague more than 300 years ago and live on Assateague Island, according to the National Park Service. Each July, a volunteer group called the “Saltwater Cowboys” shepherds the ponies to Chincoteague Island for an auction to benefit the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which cares for the herd year-round. The auction is set for tomorrow. On Friday, the rest of the herd will return to Assateague.
Marguerite Henry’s 1947 novel “Misty of Chincoteague” celebrated the rite. It also has a practical purpose: to limit the pony population on Assateague, which is limited to 150, according to a National Park Service rule.
See more images from the pony swim below.